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New Civic Engagement Group Emerges From League Of Women Voters Conflict

For years, the League of Women Voters’ state and local chapters have been promoting civic engagement and advocating for different issues before state legislatures. 

But that may change for next year’s legislative session as the national organization no longer recognizes the state chapter, effectively dissolving it. 

At the center of the development is now-former state-chapter president Sondra Cosgrove.

Cosgrove told KNPR's State of Nevada that part of the problem was an op-ed she wrote criticizing the Democratic Party in Nevada. The national group said the opinion article violated its policy of nonpartisanship.

Cosgrove responded to that criticism by pointing out the national group had criticized the GOP on several occasions.

“I feel that it’s unfair to say, ‘It’s okay to do it with one party, but not the other.’ Either it needs to be both parties are off-limits, or we can hold both parties accountable,” she said.

The national league also had a problem with Cosgrove's friendship with Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske. Cosgrove said she was friends with Cegavske before she was an officer with the league, and in Nevada, it is impossible not to be friends with people in the small political circles in the state.

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“I’ve been friends with every secretary of state that we’ve had, because that’s the chief election officer, and we’re a civic engagement organization,” she said.

Out of the League of Women Voters, Cosgrove and other members have created a new civic engagement group called Vote Nevada. 

She said members of the league were there because they were passionate about civic engagement and about improving the state. When the chapter dissolved, they didn't want to give up that passion.

“We’re going to be working on the same things, but we’re going to be Nevada specific, and we’re going to abide by the rule that if a political party has done something that we feel is not in alignment with the Constitution or law or previous statements that we will hold them accountable,” she said.

Cosgrove said by being specific to Nevada the group will be able to focus on issues specific to the state and really get to know the people who are involved in those issues. 

“And not be able to have someone else veto whether we can work on an issue or not, or how we’re going to message something,” she said.

Another problem the national league had with the local chapter was it said it didn't focus enough on diversity and inclusion. Cosgrove pushed back on that criticism. She said the local chapter was dedicated to inclusion, diversity and equity, and she plans on bringing that same focus to Vote Nevada. 

Cosgrove said the new group is already working on its agenda for the upcoming legislative session. It plans on pushing the state for improvements to behavioral and mental health workforce in the state. It also wants to be involved in the redistricting process.

Moving forward, Cosgrove wants the new group to stay focused on nonpartisanship. 

“It’s going to be very important for Vote Nevada when we decide to work on an issue, it’s going to be based on academic processes,” she said.

She explained that it will research issues, come to a sound argument about a particular issue and then find people and organizations willing to work with them on it.

“But what I have found in Nevada is often times our coalitions have people from both parties, nonpartisans and independents, and we’re just going to keep that practice up,” Cosgrove said.

Dr. Deborah Turner, president of the board of directors of the League of Women Voters of the United States:

“The League of Women Voters of the United States takes its role as a trusted advisor to state and local leagues very seriously, which means that we keep details of these internal conversations confidential. To uphold this value in our relationship with the former Nevada league, we can offer the following information: 

“From the moment that bylaws violations first came to light, it has been our goal to find a resolution that would preserve our relationship with LWV Nevada and allow us to work together to build a stronger state organization.

“The League of Women Voters of the United States board of directors withdrew recognition of the League of Women Voters of Nevada on December 1 after five months of concerted efforts to resolve multiple bylaws violations in conflict with our nonpartisan policy and our diversity, equity, and inclusion policy. The LWVUS Board is committed to upholding the organization’s nonpartisan values to protect the integrity of our 100-year-old organization and more than 700 chapters in all 50 states. The LWVUS board remains dedicated to our local League members in Nevada, and we are working now to rebuild an even stronger state League that serves all Nevada voters.”

 

 

Guests

Sondra Cosgrove, executive director, Vote Nevada

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